Name: Edinson Cavani
Born: Feb. 14, 1987, in Salto, Uruguay
Pro club: Napoli
The Uruguayan hit man has been in fine form this season, as he sits tied for the Serie A scoring lead with eight goals in 11 games. Cavani also ranks as the top scorer in this season’s Europa League, his brace on Thursday in a 2-1 win over Swedish club AIK (including the winner from the penalty spot deep into injury time) sending Napoli through to the knockout round. That goal was also the 2000th in the history of the tournament.
There’s a reason why Cavani has been consistently linked with Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and a host of other marquee clubs: he scores goals. Lots of them. Nicknamed El Matador, Cavani has scored over 100 goals in his club career, including 49 in Serie A over his last two seasons with Napoli.
Born in Salto, a city in southern Uruguay just a stone’s throw away from the Argentina border, Cavani moved to Montevideo, the country’s capital, when he was a teenager to play for the youth team of Danubio. After years of playing in the youth side, Cavani moved up to the senior team in 2006, helping Danubio win a league championship. After a breakout performance at the 2007 South American Youth Championship, Cavani began being courted by Juventus and AC Milan, but he ended up signing with Palermo. After fighting for playing time in his first two seasons, Cavani became a regular starter for the Sicilian side during the 2008-09 Serie A campaign, and he went on to score 14 goals. The following season he scored 13 and at the end of the campaign he moved to Napoli, where he helped the club capture the 2012 Coppa Italia. It’s been during his time at Napoli that Cavani has become an idol to the local fans by firmly establishing himself as one of the most dangerous and prolific scorers in world club soccer.
Cavani’s international breakthrough came as a member of Uruguay’s under-20 team at the 2007 South American Youth Championship. In a competition littered with big-name prospects (including Brazil’s Pato) it was Cavani who emerged the brightest star, scoring a tournament-high seven goals to help Uruguay finish third. He went on to represent his country that same year at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada before graduating to Uruguay’s senior team in 2008, scoring in his debut in a friendly against Colombia. He played a key role in Uruguay’s run to the semifinals at the 2010 World Cup (and scored against Germany in the third-place match) and helped his country win the 2011 Copa America in Argentina.
There have been a lot of magical performances during his career, but the one that stands out the most occurred earlier this month against FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in the Europa League. Cavani scored all four of Napoli’s goals, including a brilliant half volley from outside the penalty area, to guide the Serie A club to a come-from-behind 4-2 win over the Ukrainians.
Cavani quickly become an idol in Naples, so much so that the city that invented pizza named one after him in 2010. Topped with mozzarella and prosciutto, and featuring pancetta, tomatoes, mushrooms and provolone, the “Cavani-Matador” was created by a pizzeria in the Fuorigrotta section of Naples.
“I don’t mind that I’m not on the Ballon d’Or (nominees) list. I don’t feel inferior to anyone in my role. I wouldn’t say I envy anyone, even (Lionel) Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, I just think about myself and always improving myself.”
“Cavani is not for sale, but we could consider it if a crazy person gave me €100m. This does not mean it is his price-tag or valuation, but it is what he is worth for me and he won’t leave for less.” — Aurelio de Laurentiis, Napoli president